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Reader Writer Runner (Victoria, BC)

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A Little Book About Safety
A Little Book About Safety
by Samantha Kurtzman-Counter
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 13.95
23 used & new from CDN$ 7.10

5.0 out of 5 stars Story Time Again..., Oct. 10 2014
How do we talk to our kids about personal safety without scaring them? The Mother Company has considered this question thoughtfully and has released the charming story of Hugo the Hippo, who navigates his way through a day at the pool with his family. All of Hugo's smart choices keep him strong, happy and safe, empowering children to believe they possess the skills to act as bosses of their own safety.

"A Little Book About Safety" uses relatable language and keeps kids engaged through its interactive nature. It includes “Safety Tips” that break up the storyline where so you can pause and have a discussion. The book also emphasizes the importance of having a “Safe Adult” to trust; every child has a different family situation and this terminology takes that into consideration.

From knowing a safe adult’s name and phone number to being confident saying NO to keeping “the parts of your body covered by your bathing suit" private, The Mother Company perfectly touches on difficult but important topics and gives children ownership of their choices.

Happiness by Design: Change What You Do, Not How You Think
Happiness by Design: Change What You Do, Not How You Think
by Paul Dolan
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 18.51
29 used & new from CDN$ 17.71

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars More Bookish Thoughts..., Oct. 9 2014
Beginning in 2012, David Cameron launched the UK's National Well-being survey with the help of economist Paul Dolan. Dolan draws on both the results of this survey and other research in his new book in an attempt to shed light on the indefinable and wilfully elusive mindset we call happiness. We have limited time on Earth, Dolan morbidly concludes, so we should focus our attention on those things that make us feel happier.

This observation hardly sounds remarkable but Dolan goes further, interestingly emphasizing the temporal aspect of happiness; how we feel about what happens to us in the moment matters more than hindsight. He argues that we achieve happiness through a string of pleasurable, purposeful experiences over time. When the enjoyable meets the meaningful, we feel content and satisfied.

"Happiness by Design" uses parenting as its main example. Why do we choose to have children? Dolan asserts that, despite the daily grind, parenting feels purposeful. However, drawing wide implications from the subject appears dubious. The productive nature of child rearing can foster positive emotions but, contrarily, the responsibilities involved can feel burdensome, if not crushing to some. Any optimal balance of pleasure and purpose will fluctuate wildly between us all.

Dolan goes on to explore other prompts to happiness such as music and volunteering. He offers an interesting discussion of money, citing that income above a certain level does not make us feel happier on a daily basis. Higher-income individuals place more value on time, which makes it feel scarcer, and thus they find it harder to relax.

Generally, Dolan avoids political implications, instead focusing on personal transformation through "nudge" strategies. His theory of happiness ultimately reads as a work in progress, beginning to offer constructive advice for making ourselves at least a little bit happier. A longer, more detailed book on how to act on such advice now begs to be written.

Thanks!: How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier
Thanks!: How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier
by Robert Emmons
Edition: Hardcover
18 used & new from CDN$ 18.55

4.0 out of 5 stars More Bookish Thoughts..., Oct. 9 2014
University of California, Davis, professor and editor of The Journal of Positive Psychology, Robert Emmons, has conducted the first major scientific study of gratitude and its potential impact on human health. In "Thanks!", he reveals the results of his research, which shows that grateful people experience high levels of joy, enthusiasm and optimism. The practice of gratitude also protects a person from envy, resentment and greed and allows one to both recover more quickly from illness and cope more effectively with stress. Finally, when people experience gratitude they feel connected, altruistic and even "more loving, more forgiving, and closer to God."

These benefits of gratitude will convince even the most cynical to rethink the emotion but Emmons continues with an illuminating section covering factors that undermine the virtue. He asserts that consumerism fosters ingratitude as does forgetfulness, comparison thinking, the negativity bias, perceptions of victimhood and emotional conflicts.

Emmons feels inspired by individuals who, in the midst of suffering, have remained grateful for little things and hence transformed adversity into learning. With honesty, he admits that he finds "the sustained practice of gratitude difficult." He effortfully redirects tendencies to take life for granted and writes, "[a] thousand times a day, I too have to remind myself to be grateful and to remember how much I depend upon other people."

At the end of this thoughtful and engaging look at gratitude, the author provides 10 Prescriptions for Becoming More Grateful, including keeping a gratitude journal, coming to your senses, using visual reminders, making a vow to practice gratitude, and thinking outside the box.

The Village Effect: How Face-to-Face Contact Can Make Us Healthier and Happier
The Village Effect: How Face-to-Face Contact Can Make Us Healthier and Happier
by Susan Pinker
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 20.06

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars More Bookish Thoughts..., Oct. 6 2014
"The Village Effect" highlights the real and tangible benefits of belonging to a community. No, virtual social networks don't count. But whether you socialize in your familial, remote Italian town, take part in a worship group or merely sit down for a family meal complete with conversation, what matters, argues Susan Pinker, is that you connect with other humans. Indeed, having people to rely upon and spend time with proves as beneficial to health as eating right and exercising. The more we isolate ourselves, the sicker we become, the more pain we experience and the sooner we die.

In a sexist but evident way, this book shows that matriarchy rules society; women position themselves as alphas in most villages and can determine who fits into the community and who sits on the fringes. Men, however, consistently display the inclination to squirrel away, especially if they're married. If they make no effort to socialize, they easily find themselves one person away from being completely alone. But interestingly, Pinker also explores the negative aspects of a close-knit circle. She cites the Ponzi schemes of Bernie Madoff and Eddie Jones as an example of the dark side to community; too much trust can backfire.

Susan Pinker writes in an unassuming manner and renders facts with a plain ease. She sites a multitude of studies but cohesively weaves them into a well-researched, decisive thesis. She also brings personality into the chapters, relaying anecdotes and adding humanity to what would otherwise read as a tedious synthesis of research papers. At times the reader wants to interject that correlation does not necessarily mean causation but overall the varied sources and results of environmental tracking get harder to ignore when they all reach the same conclusions.

"The Village Effect" ultimately proves that you cannot mentally, physically or emotionally afford to become an island unto yourself. It offers a clear indictment against solitude and of thinking that a virtual community can provide any of the mortal benefits of a physical one.

100 Days Of Real Food: How We Did It, What We Learned, and 100 Easy, Wholesome Recipes Your Family Will Love
100 Days Of Real Food: How We Did It, What We Learned, and 100 Easy, Wholesome Recipes Your Family Will Love
by Lisa Leake
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 23.19
40 used & new from CDN$ 23.19

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars More Bookish Thoughts..., Oct. 4 2014
The advice in "100 Days of Real Food" doesn't deviate from that of most healthy cookbooks these days but it does bear repeating: cook more, eat more whole foods and curb your reliance on packaged, processed products.

Lisa Leake begins by defining "real" food as either a whole food of only one ingredient or a packaged food of no more than five unrefined ingredients. These include plain dairy products, 100% whole grain breads and crackers, wild-caught seafood, nuts and seeds, fruits and vegetables, natural sweeteners and humanely raised meat. Then, in its strongest, most helpful section, the book provides "how to" management tips like "getting your family on board" and "food budget tips and meal plans."

The second half of the book contains 100 mostly exciting recipes including lunch box ideas for kids. The most indulgent meals weigh in at about 800 calories whereas most dishes contain 200-300 calories per serving, proving that, when you cook at home, you don't need to track calories as diligently as you do when eating from packages and restaurants. However, readers must keep in mind that some meals will fall into the "eat less often" category, even when made from scratch.

The book certainly gives some solid advice on choosing whole grains and healthy fats, reading labels and eschewing the goal of perfection. Unfortunately, Leake’s accuracy is at times followed up by non-evidence based statements guided by the natural fallacy that only "real" foods are healthy. This false construct may distress those who lack the budget, access or interest to cook the majority of their food, let alone do so with organic, grass fed, speciality ingredients.

Ultimately, this book provides a great resource for those looking to eat and cook with more whole foods, keeping in mind that choosing to bake with white flour once in a while may do more good than harm.

The Norm Chronicles: Stories and Numbers About Danger and Death
The Norm Chronicles: Stories and Numbers About Danger and Death
Price: CDN$ 9.99

4.0 out of 5 stars More Bookish Thoughts..., Oct. 4 2014
We worry about fat and carbs, disease and antibiotics, saving money and paying the mortgage. Then we worry that we worry too much. Journalist Michael Blastland and statistician David Spiegelhalter do not purport to put our minds at rest with their new book but they do shed light on the highs and lows of risk: how many children drown every year? Does fishing or mining pose a greater hazard? Will you arrive alive if you take a car or an airplane?

Thankfully, the authors go beyond bombardment with tables and charts. They convey quantities in charming measurements: acute risks in MicroMorts (a one-in-a-million chance of death) and more chronic risks in MicroLives, (one-millionth of a typical life span, or about 30 minutes of existence). These common units allow for easy comparison and make sense of the fact that undergoing general anesthesia (a risk of 5 MicroMorts) equates to 1,200 miles of driving in the U.S. Smoking a pack a day eats up 10 MicroLives daily, 10 times as much as a couple of hours watching TV.

By virtue, "The Norm Chronicles" makes heavy use of numbers but the authors remain appropriately aware of the danger in carelessly slinging statistics. They assert that our minds don't think of dangers as numbers but rather as stories. Thus, the book cleverly alternates segments of statistical explanation with tales of three characters: risk-averse Prudence, daredevil Kelvin and the protagonist of the book, Norm, who embodies the median of every statistical category.

Readers follow Norm, Kelvin and Pru as they encounter life's various risks. Through their stories, we learn fascinating facts: ecstasy (the drug) carries a roughly equal risk to equasy (the practice of horse riding). The number of MicroMorts we incur when driving a car tops the charts whereas the chance of dying on a plane is next to nil. So why do we sweat and stress on takeoff while mindlessly pulling out of our garages? One could certainly interpret a prosecutorial tone in these statistics but, more productively, readers can learn to buttress their judgment here while remembering that numbers can never replace judgment entirely.

by Sally Sutton
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 13.26
31 used & new from CDN$ 6.76

4.0 out of 5 stars Story Time Again..., Oct. 3 2014
This review is from: Construction (Hardcover)
Following their rhythmic hits "Roadwork" and "Demolition," Sutton and Lovelock have returned with a new combination of dynamic text and colourful illustrations for little builders.

From breaking ground to the the final coat of paint, "Construction" describes workers erecting a new mystery building from the ground up. As usual, Sutton’s words briskly pulsate: “Dig the ground. Dig the ground. Bore down in the mud” and fun, read-aloud onomatopoeia rounds out each stanza: "Slip! SLAP! THUD!” Bold pictures convey the effort and the machinery required to lift stacks of lumber and position sheets of glass. Lovelock shows people of all demographics working on the site and she changes perspective constantly, allowing readers to look down from above the scene or to crouch low to look up at the machines.

The rhymes of "Construction" may not sound quite as smooth as those of its predecessors but the book has a satisfying ending: the reveal of a library..."Ready…STEADY…READ!”

Edge of Eternity: Book Three of The Century Trilogy
Edge of Eternity: Book Three of The Century Trilogy
by Ken Follett
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 26.33
40 used & new from CDN$ 19.82

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More Bookish Thoughts..., Oct. 1 2014
Nothing says "epic" quite like a Ken Follett novel...except possibly three Ken Follett novels. Indeed, the final book in Follett's trans-global Century Trilogy satisfyingly completes a magnificent, multi-generational saga that comes with a captivating cast of hundreds. The series began with "Fall of Giants," set in the early decades of the 20th century, transitioned into the upheaval of WWII in "Winter of the World" and here, in "Edge of Eternity," moves inexorably into the Cold War and the turbulent civil rights movement of the 1960s. Throughout, the reader follows five families spread across Europe and America. Some enjoy freedom and some fight oppression, but all interconnect through momentous events.

In 1961, the corridors of power realize their ability to bring the world to the brink of oblivion. At the same time in Communist Berlin, teacher Rebecca Hoffmann gets called in for questioning by the Stasi, East Germany’s feared secret police. There, she learns that Hans, her husband of just one year, works as an undercover agent for the Stasi and married her only to spy on her. Hurt and angry, Rebecca holds the death of Communism as her highest hope but her actions now will have dangerous repercussions for her family, especially her musician brother Walli who longs to escape across the Berlin Wall to Britain to become part of the burgeoning music scene.

In the United States, George Jakes, a bright young mixed-race lawyer in JFK's administration, fiercely supports the civil rights movement and shares his passion with the love of his life, Verena, who works for Martin Luther King. When the two board a Greyhound bus in Washington on a Freedom Ride to the Deep South to protest segregation, they begin a fateful journey that will change their lives forever.

Meanwhile, in Soviet Russia, activist Tania Dvorkin narrowly evades capture for producing an illegal news sheet. as her twin brother, Dimka, rises in the heart of President Nikita Khrushchev’s Communist Party in the Kremlin. Dimka becomes a key player in the perilous nuclear stand-off between the Soviet Union and the United States while TASS news agency reporter Tania takes to Siberia, Cuba, Poland and beyond.

As ever, Follett uses meticulous and exhaustive research for his wide canvas, seamlessly weaving fact and fiction and encompassing everything from the birth of Rock and Roll to the fall of the Berlin Wall. He firmly places humanity in history and captures the cataclysmic 20th century through the eyes of extraordinary people who fight for justice, negotiate change and struggle to comprehend the future.

A factual lesson from a master of fiction, "Edge of Eternity" provides a satisfying, gripping and moving finale to a superbly imagined series.

The Children Act
The Children Act
by Ian McEwan
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 18.77
12 used & new from CDN$ 10.97

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars More Bookish Thoughts..., Oct. 1 2014
This review is from: The Children Act (Hardcover)
When the profound and brilliant Ian McEwan releases a new novel, I dive into it with excitement and high expectations. Though I've suffered the occasional disappointment, "The Children Act" showcases McEwan's talent; it provides a meticulous yet emotional example of how a law can hurt those its meant to help. It also asks the difficult question: to what extent can one determine the best outcome for a child?

A few months shy of his 18th birthday, Adam suffers from leukaemia and needs a blood transfusion to survive. However, as a devout Jehovah's Witness, he and his parents refuse the treatment. High Court judge Fiona Maye must make a ruling: force Adam to accept the transfusion or allow him to die. Visiting Adam in hospital, Fiona witnesses his articulacy and intelligence but she must set aside her own emotions, painfully aware that she represents a secular institution at the polar opposite from that of Adam's family.

McEwan describes Fiona with such intensity that she seems to inhabit another world. She lives with her husband, Jack, in a haven of elegance and culture composed of academics, music, fine coffee and soirees. But even the opening page shows fault lines in their 30-year marriage with which Fiona must grapple while calibrating legal arguments that affect lives such as Adam's.

McEwan portrays the workings of a court and a judge's life with the thoroughness of a devoted researcher. And, as the novel's narrative tension rises, he vividly relates Fiona's conscious dispassion. Finally, beneath the drama of Adam's story, he threads an undercurrent of distaste for selfishness; the cool personality that distinguishes Fiona briefly takes a back seat to a blaze of passion and irrationality, setting the novel alight.

True, "The Children Act" at times reads like an exercise in ethical quandaries or perhaps as a short novel claustrophobically enveloped in legalities. Ultimately, thought, readers can admire McEwan's flawless execution of a clever idea and appreciate his skill in capturing the mood of our morally complex times.

Vancouver Island Imagine
Vancouver Island Imagine
by Peter Grant
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 14.54
26 used & new from CDN$ 14.05

4.0 out of 5 stars More Bookish Thoughts..., Sept. 22 2014
Best selling author Peter Grant wanted to make his new book "about the people." Thus, he partnered with North Island College photography professor, Boomer Jerritt, whose images centre around human subjects, to create a kind of archive that lives and breathes Island life.

"Vancouver Island: Imagine" will not appeal only to tourists; it will not just attract locals. Anyone who appreciates the beauty of the Island will appreciate this book and its accompanying website (, where one can read commentary from both Grant and Jerritt about their work and life.

Part historical log, part travel information pamphlet, part photo essay, this book makes a welcome addition to any Island lover's coffee table.

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